Richard DeVos Sr. remembered as ‘relentless encourager’

Kent County

ADA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The grandson of Richard DeVos Sr. is sharing a new perspective of the West Michigan icon who helped spearhead global giant Amway.

Shortly after Richard DeVos Sr.’s passing, his grandson Rick DeVos posted the following statement on Twitter:

“Early this morning our family’s patriarch, Richard DeVos Sr. went home to join his dear wife Helen with Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. These next days will be full of great joy and sadness as our family celebrates a life truly well lived and mourns the coming days without him.

“I pray that we may all continue to build on the foundations they have put down for us and I give thanks for the gift of many years—far more than we expected—with an incredible man and Grandpa.

“Anyone who spent any amount of time—as little as a few seconds—with Grandpa knows that he truly, deeply loved people. He was interested in them, in learning what they were thinking and doing. And he was a relentless encourager.

“Traveling with him was always an adventure as he struck up conversations with any and everyone along the way, curious about what they were doing and thinking, and encouraging them in their work and journeys.

“Not a single visit, even in these final days and moments when he was still able to speak, was spent without hearing words of encouragement from him. Warmth and care radiated from his entire being.

“In the minds of many who he wasn’t able to meet face to face, Rich DeVos was more of an idea than a man. Larger than life and driven to build and create. His accomplishments are immense—global even. 

“But to our family he was simply Dad and Grandpa.

“A Dad and Grandpa that every single one of us deeply loved, admired, and learned from.

“We will miss him immensely.

“Love you Grandpa. Thank you for everything.”

Richard DeVos Sr. was 92 years old when he died due to complications from an infection, according to a family spokesperson. The family released the following statement after his death:

“Our father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, Rich DeVos, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his family on September 6, 2018, at age 92. 
 
“Dad spread positivity everywhere he went and encouraged everyone he met.  He did that for his children and grandchildren, and for countless others around the world.  His positivity was a constant, motivating force that inspired many others to make meaningful changes in their own lives and communities.  He was a visionary leader, builder, life enricher, motivator, and a champion for people from all walks of life.
 
“Rich DeVos was many things to many people, but to us he was simply “Dad,” “Grandpa,” “Bumpa,” or “Papa Great.”  We are deeply grateful and blessed beyond measure to have been loved unconditionally, raised, mentored, and inspired by him.  He was a role model unlike any other.
 
“While we are saddened by his passing, our hearts are full as we celebrate the extraordinary life he led. We are comforted that he is reunited with Mom, and that together they are experiencing the joy of eternal life with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Doug DeVos, one of Rich DeVos’ sons, also posted a tribute on Twitter Thursday afternoon, remembering his father’s optimism, humility and faith. He said his father set a prime example for his family:

“My Dad and @Amway’s Co-Founder, Rich DeVos, passed away this morning. Dad was the most encouraging person I’ve ever known, and he never missed an opportunity to express his belief in people.

“With @Amway, the @OrlandoMagic, and in the community, he was always the first to say, ‘You can do it!’ It’s impossible to express the impact he had on my life, my family, and the lives of so many others. It’s a tremendous honor to call him ‘Dad.’

“While very public and engaging, he acted the same way at home as he did on stage. He was genuine, humble, funny, and faithful. He always told us that he was a sinner, saved by Grace, through Jesus Christ, his Lord.

“We know he is now home and beginning a new life in heaven. It is so hard to let him go, yet we still have the memories, experiences, stories, and encouragement that he left with us.

“We can continue to move forward using what we have learned from him and the example he gave us all with the way he lived his life. He didn’t just say it, he lived it too! He enriched our lives in so many ways, and has challenged us to positively enrich the lives of others.

“Thank you, Dad. Just as you have loved us, we deeply loved you…and always will.”

SCHOOLS RESPOND

Richard DeVos graduated from and donated to Grand Rapids Christian Schools, which proudly touts his name on the DeVos Center for Arts and Worship.

The school said the 1944 graduate “embodied the mission of Grand Rapids Christian Schools and was a tremendous example of our goal for all graduates of Grand Rapids Christian High School. He served as a true inspiration to all, reflected his genuine love for others in every interaction, and used his talents and blessings to impact his community and the world for Jesus Christ. Grand Rapids Christian will be forever grateful for the impact he has had on our schools and for the legacy that will live on for
generations of students to come. Our prayers are lifted today and in the many days to come for
his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and extended family. He will be deeply missed.”

DeVos’ name also graces the field house at Hope College, where he had a “transformative impact.”

“In many ways, Hope College is flourishing today because of the generosity and vision of Rich DeVos. Both Rich and his wife, Helen, were faithful friends of the Hope community and fostered recognized excellence in the arts and athletics as active supporters of the college’s mission,” said Hope College President Rev. Dr. Dennis N. Voskuil in Thursday news release. “We can hardly imagine Hope without the Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse or the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts and its Concert Hall. In gratitude, we celebrate Rich’s legacy here on Hope’s campus and in West Michigan, and we extend our deepest condolences to the DeVos family.”

Grand Valley State University said along with his late wife, Richard DeVos, who served as a board member and president for decades, forever changed West Michigan and the school through their unwaivering generosity and vision, which included classroom visits and financial support.

GVSU President Thomas J. Haas released the following statement:

“There are no words to describe how much Rich DeVos will be missed by Marcia and me personally, our university, and the entire West Michigan community… Rich gave so much of himself to Grand Valley. His enthusiasm and vision were contagious, and drew the entire community together to help provide a world-class education to West Michigan citizens. The university would not be what it is today without his and Helen’s leadership and generosity. His legacy lives on in the lives of the thousands of students he has touched. Our hearts are with the DeVos family at this time.”

Both Rich and Helen DeVos attended Calvin College. Calvin President Michael K. Le Roy, provided this statement:

“For decades, Rich and Helen lived out their commitment to Christ by contributing to the flourishing of their neighbors in Grand Rapids. The city specifically, and the west Michigan area more broadly, is thriving in no small part due to their investment in this community. We are especially grateful for Rich and Helen’s commitment to the students and faculty at their alma mater, Calvin College. They’ve created spaces for students to study and gather, supported numerous scholarships, provided opportunities for study off-campus and overseas, and supported the research and scholarship efforts of our faculty. Their longtime support has equipped our students to think deeply, act justly, and live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world. Rich’s family is in our prayers as they mourn his loss and celebrate his life.”

ORGANIZATIONS REACT

The DeVos family’s contributions also made Spectrum Health’s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital possible.

“Rich was a great champion for Spectrum Health and for the region. He made a profound and positive impact on our organization, our community and the world. Rich established a beautiful and incredible legacy, which will continue to impact the vitality, health and wellbeing of our community for generations to come. I feel honored to have known him,” stated Spectrum Health President and CEO Tina Freese Decker.

“With Rich’s passing, we have lost a giant in our community and a man with a heart to match. We will miss his compassion, his keen insight and his giving spirit. We offer our sympathies to his children and all of his family and friends. He will be missed. His inspiration and generosity will live on and will benefit our community for many generations,” she added.

The NBA’s Orlando Magic also paid tribute to its senior chairman on Twitter Thursday, with the hashtag, “LoveYaRich.”

Magic CEO Alex Martins shared the following statement:

“Mr. DeVos’ boundless generosity, inspirational leadership and infectious enthusiasm will always be remembered. Simply, he was the team’s No. 1 cheerleader and the best owner that a Magic fan could ever want for their team. When the DeVos Family purchased the Magic, his vision was that the team and organization would serve as a platform to improve the Central Florida community. That legacy will certainly live on, both in the Orlando Magic’s community efforts and philanthropic contributions,  as well as in the way we strive to play the game with passion, a strong work ethic and  integrity, while also bringing people together from all walks of life.”

ArtPrize, which was supported by the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, provided this statement from its executive director Jori Bennett:

“We’re so grateful for the generous support of The Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, which was instrumental in the creation of ArtPrize, allowing the organization to deliver a successful event right out of the gate. Their investment and vision has inspired a broad base of support over the years, and was the catalyst that turned ArtPrize into a financially sustainable organization. ArtPrize joins the family and community in mourning Rich’s passing.”

Grand Rapids Symphony President and CEO Peter Perez said both Rich and Helen DeVos believed in the soul-touching impact of music, and were integral in transforming a community orchestra into the group of professional musicians that traveled to Carnegie Hall in April.

“Rich and Helen DeVos’s vision for the Grand Rapids Symphony gave us the orchestra we have today,” stated president and CEO Peter Perez. “Their guidance and support truly was transformational.”

The Christian Reformed Church in North America and the Reformed Church in America said Richard DeVos was a long-time supporter of their ministries.

“The legacy of Mr. and Mrs. DeVos is evident throughout West Michigan as you look at schools, buildings, and charities that all benefited from their support. In a similar way, their legacy will continue as Christian Reformed and Reformed Church in America churches continue to find ways to minister and worship together… it is a legacy for which I am truly grateful,” stated Dr. Steven Timmermans, executive director of the CRCNA. 

Richard DeVos’ generousity also touched the Diocese of Grand Rapids, as Bishop David J. Walkowiak indicated Friday:

“Richard DeVos lived his life truly embodying the Christian spirit. The generous giving of his talents and treasure to support many causes throughout West Michigan has shaped our community and will impact it for generations to come.

“We are most grateful for the support Mr. DeVos and his family provided toward the development of Cathedral Square, their support of Christian education, and their advocacy for religious liberty.

“We extend our prayerful sympathy and condolences to the DeVos family. May Mr. DeVos rest in eternal peace.”

Richard DeVos was also a founding board member and honorary trustee of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation. The late president Gerald R. Ford’s children said Richard DeVos was a close family friend whose legacy will live on for generations through the DeVos Learning Center.

“I have lost a dear friend; America has lost an icon of integrity and patriotic commitment to excellence,” Susan Ford Bales stated.

“Rich was blessed with the gift of years, and he lived those years to the fullest. His ever-present common sense, kindness, generosity to his community, and love of country showed all of us – by word and deed – the meaning of a lifetime of service. And no one cherished their decades of friendship with Rich and his beloved wife Helen more than my parents President Gerald R. Ford and Betty Ford.

“The American people and the people of West Michigan will always admire Rich’s devotion to
duty, his personal character, and the honorable standards by which he conducted all of his good
works, both professional and charitable.

“Rich DeVos will always have a special place in the hearts of all of us in the Ford family,” she added.

Grand Rapids Art Museum director and CEO Dana Friis-Hansen provided this statement:

“With the passing of Rich DeVos, West Michigan has lost a legend, and the Grand Rapids Art Museum has lost a dear friend. Our institution would not be where it is today without the visionary guidance and generous support that Rich and Helen gave to GRAM; they saw the importance of connecting civic and cultural ambitions to make our region stronger and the lives of our citizens richer. Rich knew that the arts play a transformative role in creating a vibrant city and we will be forever grateful to him and the entire DeVos family for their support and advocacy. I speak for everyone at the Museum when I say we extend our deepest condolences to the DeVos family.”

Birgit Klohs, the president of West Michigan economic development agency The Right Place, Inc., provided this statement:

“The entire Grand Rapids community has benefited from Rich DeVos’ legacy. Rich, along with his partner Jay Van Andel, built Amway into one of West Michigan’s most successful companies, providing employment opportunities for thousands in the community. He approached downtown Grand Rapids with the same dedication and vigor he had for the company. Rich and his contemporaries had a passion for revitalizing downtown that has led to the thriving urban core we enjoy today. Rich knew that having a strong downtown would positively impact the quality of life, economic vitality, and civic engagement throughout this region. His legacy lives on in the many projects in which he championed, as well as through his children and grandchildren. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the DeVos family.”

LEADERS REFLECT

Thursday afternoon, Vice President Mike Pence responded to the news of Rich DeVos’ death via Twitter:

“Saddened to hear of the passing of Richard DeVos, a towering figure in American business and conservative politics,” he posted. “DeVos was a generous philanthropist and pillar of his community. His family and loved ones are in my prayers. He will be missed.”

Gov. Rick Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley shared their thoughts about the trail-blazing businessman Thursday afternoon.

“We have lost an incredible businessman, philanthropist and true Michigander,” stated Snyder. “The positive impact Rich had on our state is truly immeasurable. Through successful business ventures and charitable endeavors, he created endless opportunities for residents of many different ages and backgrounds. Rich’s giving spirit is how we will always remember him, and his legacy is certain to live on forever. Sue and I are sending thoughts and prayers to his loved ones as they reflect on the life of a wonderful man who lived with purpose and compassion for others.”

“Rich DeVos was a pillar in the West Michigan community. His vision, intellect, compassion and mentorship will be missed immensely.  Rich DeVos’s life should be celebrated as he led an extraordinary one and the legacy he leaves behind will be felt by generations to come.  Julie and I send our deepest condolences to the DeVos family during this very difficult time as they mourn an incredible man,” said Calley.

In Washington, Michigan’s representatives in Congress remembered DeVos for his philanthropy.

“Rich DeVos was an icon for community impact, rolling up his sleeves, his money belt, everything in helping community efforts,” U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, told 24 Hour News 8. “He was a man who had strong strong convictions and principles, but he was a guy who would work with anyone to make sure things move forward.”

“He was one of the best philanthropic individuals around. He really cared. He had great values and employed thousands and thousands of people and made a real impact,” U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, said.

Congressman Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, shared his thoughts in a statement:

“It’s hard to imagine what West Michigan would look like without Richard DeVos. Rich was as approachable and as down to earth as they come. He exhibited the type of servant leadership that makes West Michigan such a special place. Through his philanthropic activities, Rich led by example, created new opportunities for countless West Michigan residents, and strived to make our community an even greater place to call home. While his legacy will live on, his leadership and friendship will be deeply missed.”

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser called Richard DeVos “an amazing man and a personal role model.”

“As a citizen and philanthropist, he fought to make our world a better place to live. We will remember Rich for his leadership, dedication to Michigan, and his belief that hard work can make the American dream a reality for all. On behalf of Republicans across our state, I send my deepest condolences to the entire DeVos family,” he stated in part.

TRIBUTES TO DEVOS

Funeral arrangements are pending. Updates will be posted on a website devoted to Richard DeVos Sr.

The Grand Rapids Symphony plans to remember Rich DeVos when it opens its season Sept. 14 and Sept. 15. 

GVSU plans to light the towers blue on its downtown and Allendale campuses Thursday night in honor of Rich DeVos. Flags on both campuses were also flying at half-staff Thursday as tribute to the philanthropist.

Amway plans to keep the flags outside its world headquarters in Ada Township will remain lowered until Saturday.

>>App users: Photos of Rich DeVos’ life

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